Osinbajo and the Message from Seething Masses of Kano

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RingTrue

with Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (text only)

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was in Kano State last Saturday to commiserate with traders at Sabon Gari Market who lost billions of Naira in a fire incident that destroyed a large chunk of the market. The visit provided an opportunity for the seething masses of Kano State to confront Osinbajo over the economic hardship foisted on the people by the archaic economic policies and the scandalous ineptitude of the Buhari administration. Efforts by security agents to suppress hundreds of Sabon Gari residents failed as they chanted, “We are suffering, no fuel, no power, no money.” Some also carried placards with different engravings lamenting the current economic conditions across the nation. This was a big opportunity for Osinbajo to meet face-to-face with the real Nigerians feeling the brunt of our sliding economy. It was an opportunity to meet the masses, most of whom had been reduced to beggars in the last 11 months of this administration.

Of course, the vice president tried to console the seething masses of Kano State with the usual rhetoric. He told the protesters that the government was aware of their suffering and had rolled out several policies to cushion the effects. It was Just the same old story. There was nothing new to tell the people in practical terms. Osinbajo was just showboating. For me, the most important thing our vice president should do after this visit to Sabon Gari is to sit his principal (Muhammadu Buhari) down and present to him the facts and figures of what transpired at Sabon Gari Market on Saturday March 9, 2016. Buhari is expected back in Nigeria from China tomorrow. So Osinbajo should do the needful. He should let Buhari know that the masses across the nation are boiling, based on this first-hand experience. Is Buhari not already aware of the agony in our land? I guess this is the big question many would probably be asking me this morning. Yes, wailing Buhari and his deputy are already aware, but have not taken any practical step to suggest that they care. Perhaps, the Sabon Gari experience will ginger them into action. This is why Osinbajo has to sit his boss down and narrate the Sabon Gari experience to him. If they are not careful, the smoldering masses will start stoning them from Lagos to Kano.

The nation’s economy is not just in trouble. It is in tatters and the masses are feeling the squeeze. Just this week, it emerged that inflation had jumped to 12.8 per cent in March. The currency curbs introduced by this administration, coupled with the fuel scarcity contributed to the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation, to 12.8 per cent in March, compared to 11.4 per cent in February and 9.6 per cent in January. This is according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). It blamed the 1.4 per cent rise in the headline index on an increase in the prices of goods and services across the country, the highest year-on-year rise since July 2012. This is galloping inflation and it is killing our nation.

Also, the latest unemployment statistics by the NBS pointed to the fact that rather than a decrease, the unemployment index rose to 10.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year (Q4 2015) compared to 9.9 per cent in the previous quarter. Buhari’s job creation strategies, if there is any, appear to have yielded little or no concrete results for now. The latest unemployment figures by the NBS showed that a total of 22.45 million of the total labour force of 76.96 million were either unemployed or underemployed in Q4 of 2015 compared to 20.7 million in Q3 and 19.6 million in Q2 of the same year. No doubt, the forex policy of this administration is creating crisis for the economy, particularly the refusal to allow the Naira to float, thus aggravating the unemployment crisis in the country as companies resort to sacking of workers to survive. This forex policy, which encourages corruption, has led to unprecedented colossal speculative trading and round-tripping.

Again, we are still contending with the piercing fuel crisis, epileptic electricity supply, decaying infrastructure, hunger and disease. Just as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) said on Monday, Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) government are largely responsible for the depreciation of the economy and the ensuing suffering of the masses. For ASUU, our president and his party are running a change government that is devoid of transformation. The remarks of the ASUU President, Dr. Nasir Isa on the 11-month administration of Buhari is instructive. It is food for thought. He said: “The symptoms of the prevailing economic crisis have become obvious with its attendant consequences and overall burden on Nigerians. There is no doubt that Nigerians are suffering. There exists a socio-economic crisis in Nigeria. We are all aware of the manifestations of the crisis. There are many symptoms of the crisis – rising level of poverty; increasing rate of unemployment and heightened expectations leading to heightened frustration among Nigerians due to the failure to realise an improved living standard.”

 “Food prices are higher and access to health facilities has not improved; life and property remains insecure. In short, Nigerian people are still suffering. The disappointment of Nigerians stems from the fact that we have a government whose leadership promised change but which is not practising transformation (deep, fundamental change). Democracy in Nigeria is still seen superficially as what leaders do for the people rather than government by the people. Democracy is essentially popular participation in governance and popular sovereignty.”
I sincerely hope that our Johnnie Walker will listen to the voice of wisdom and take steps to reduce the suffering of the masses. Lest I forget, kerosene, patronised mainly by the masses, is now selling for between N150 and N200 per litre in government–approved fuel stations. This is the same kerosene that ought to be selling at N76 per litre. No government official is talking about this. May Allah save the suffering masses of this country from the “change” that has turned to “chain”.

Buhari Received on Arrival in China by ‘Assistant Minister’
I was so depressed on Monday after seeing pictures of President Muhammadu Buhari being received on arrival in the People’s Republic of China by Mr. Cheng, the Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs. The level of the Chinese government official sent to receive him speaks volumes about the regard Chinese President Xi Jinping has for our President and our country.  This was a clear case of insult. Haba! How can they send a junior minister to receive our own Buhari? I thought that with all the hype to the State Visit by the Nigerian government, Xi Jinping would be at the Beijing International Airport waiting for Buhari. This was not the case. This is what a country and its leader get when they go all over the world begging for all sorts of funny things. Ours is now a beggar nation. The Chinese President knew that we were coming to beg. That was why Xi Jinping simply sent a junior minister to receive Buhari. He did not even send Vice President Li Yuanchao or Premier, Li Keqiang.

They no longer have regard for us because we are always running to them for all sorts of loan. Now, let’s look at the ugly side of the Chinese loans we beg for. They determine the cost of the projects we propose; award the contract to China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) at whatever amount they want and pass the cost to us as a loan. If some of these projects we push to them to fund are allowed to go through Open Competitive Bidding, the cost will certainly be lower; the CCECC may not even get many of them.

Yes to the Bill to Remove CCB, CCT from Office of the SGF
In this part of the world, when the executive and the legislature are at loggerheads, the people profit. We are clearly profiting from the current bitter relationship between Buhari and Saraki. Until last Tuesday, many Nigerians were not aware that two sensitive bodies in the war against corruption – the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) – are parastatals in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). This is undoubtedly preposterous. For years, the executive has been using this power to deal with its political opponents because these two bodies take instructions from the SGF. This is what the current SGF, Babachir Lawal is believed to be doing with the two bodies. Again, the National Judicial Council (NJC) can’t discipline CCT judges because they don’t report to the council.  This was why the NJC could not discipline the current Chairman of the CCT, Justice Danladi Umar, in spite of the huge corruption petitions against him. Many are not even aware that Justice Umar is on administrative bail from the EFCC after being grilled for alleged corruption.

I was very happy when a Bill to amend the Act establishing the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) passed the first reading at the Senate on Tuesday. The amendment aims to move the bureau and the tribunal away from the office of the SGF. Some may say that the move is coming because the current President of the Senate is on trial at the CCT. This point is immaterial here. The proposed amendment is about the future of our country and our democracy. It is about equity and justice. The objective of the proposed amendment is just and fair. How can bodies performing a quasi-judicial function reside in the executive arm of government? They should be moved to the judicial arm of government to reduce manipulation by the executive.

I fully agree with the sponsor of the CCB Act amendment Bill, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, who said: “The secretary to the government is a politician and can use it against political opponents or perceived political opponents. He oversees the CCB and the CCT; they report to his office. Since the Supreme Court in their judgment has said that they are a court of some sort, they must be seen to be neutral in nature and not to report to a politician. We want to make it completely neutral, either move it to the judiciary or move it to the National Assembly that has the power to remove the chairman and members of the tribunal.

“Otherwise, one day like we are seeing now, if you are an enemy to the SGF, he will use the CCB to put you into trouble and charge you there like we are seeing now. The intent is not because of what is happening; you cannot put a quasi-judicial arm under the control of the SGF who is a politician, appointed by the President.” The senator added that the amendment to the Act would include stipulating a timeline within which the bureau should investigate assets declared by a political office holder. This is also just and fair.

It is clearly out of place for the CCB to prescribe that a political office holder should declare belongings at the beginning and end of his tenure while the bureau decides when to investigate. Nwaoboshi clearly made sense when he added: “Within the time you came to office and the time you are leaving office, they (CCB) must have investigated your assets; what is left is to investigate the assets declared when leaving office. You do not just leave it for so many years, and then all of a sudden, someone wakes up and says `56 years ago you did not declare your asset’; that should not be so. The court has said that it made a mistake in Tinubu’s case which means another political party can come up tomorrow and pick up Tinubu.”